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Forced to pack up their clothes and books right before the onset of a new academic session, the exit of 10 teenaged daughters of sex workers from their rented flat in a Mumbai suburb now seems inevitable. After being refused accommodation in about 200 flats in the city, the girls, whose backgrounds became a stumbling block in their education and occupancy of the flat, are headed back to their mothers’ homes in various red light areas of the city.
The three-bedroom flat in Kandivali’s Akurli Om apartment was home to the girls and two staffers — Robin Chaurasiya and Bani Das — of Kranti, the NGO that funded their education. The visit of the flat owner around 8 am on Tuesday meant they could no longer stay in the apartment. “The owner was adamant on us leaving the same day. However, we requested him to give us a room to keep our stuff for a few more days. But we have to leave tomorrow,” said Bani.
The girls said it was “heart-wrenching” to deal with having to leave their residence of three years. Some of them, who are appearing for their Class 10 exams, said their studies had taken a pounding due to the turmoil that ensued following their flat owner’s refusal to renew the rental agreement. For the others who go to a civic school right adjacent to their building, their worst fears have come true.
One of the rooms, which was turned into a library with over 1,000 books, bears a grim look with empty shelves. “Ten huge boxes have been filled only with books. The packing started Monday evening at around 7 pm,” said one of the girls, while shoving her clothes inside a nearly-full bag. Those appearing for their Class 10 board exams are finding it difficult to concentrate on studies amid the ongoing pandemonium. “Three of us have our exams on June 16. All the chaos has just taken away our interest from studies,” said a girl, who has been invited to give a motivational speech in Patna and is scheduled to leave on Wednesday.
One of the girls, who loathes the prospect of moving back to her mother’s home in a red light area, said, “My mother didn’t like the idea of me getting involved with Kranti, and now I have to live with her. We already had an argument in the morning. This is nothing but the most turbulent time of our lives.” “Even decades after our Independence in 1947, people’s narrow-mindedness hasn’t changed. It’s really sad that they still think that people like us cannot mingle with the so-called ‘normal ones’ only because of our backgrounds,” said one of the girls.
From medication to tuition classes, a white board in their living room lists the tasks for the following week. “Everything is going to change, as our time-table with our daily chores won’t be the same anymore,” said another girl, pointing at the space now left blank as a result of their exit. Robin, who on Tuesday met flat owners who could possibly rent out their flats to the girls, said though a few of them had promised flats, it was uncertain if they would actually sign the agreement. “Lying to them about the girls’ parents is the last resort. At least we can stay there for a couple of months,” said Robin, who is set to fly to London for raising funds for the girls. Amid all the chaos, the girls got some respite on the eve of their exit. “There is a Sufi concert happening in the city. Maybe that would give us some time to rejuvenate before all of us part ways,” said Robin.